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Extension staff to attend Cooking Matters Conference

Two Michigan State University Extension staff members and a chef who helped out in the program will have the opportunity to attend the Share Our Strength Cooking Matters National Conference of Leaders 2013 in June.

Cooking Matters empowers people to make healthy food choices and save money at the same time. The program is part of a broader strategy to end childhood hunger, the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. ConAgra Foods Foundation and Wal-Mart sponsor the program nationally. Gleaner’s Community Food Bank in Detroit partners with MSU Extension to make the program possible locally across the state.

Carol Bublitz recently received the Share Our Strength Cooking Matters Conference of Leaders Volunteer Scholarship, an opportunity for each Cooking Matters program partner to select one Cooking Matters volunteer to attend. The scholarship covers expenses associated with attendance.

Carol is an MSU Extension program instructor who works with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) and the Breastfeeding Initiative (BFI) in St. Clair County.

Carol had served as a nutrition educator for the Cooking Matters program since 2009, working directly with Gleaners, before it became an approved curriculum for MSU Extension. Since that time, she and Cassandra Hackstock, another Extension program instructor, have coordinated more than15 additional Cooking Matters courses in St. Clair County.

Carol said, “Cassandra would be accompanying me, but the scholarship only covers one volunteer.

“The partnership between Cooking Matters is strong and vital. I can’t help but acknowledge that the appreciation goes both ways,” Carol said.

Don Zimmer, a volunteer chef who assists in teaching Cooking Matters classes in Mecosta County, will receive recognition at the conference and will be inducted into the Cooking Matters Hall of Fame at that time. The Hall of Fame honors volunteers across the country who have completed at least 15 Cooking Matters course series. This is an amazing accomplishment considering Chef Don only began volunteering in February 2012.

These courses could not have been possible without the support and coordination expertise of Extension program assistant Effie Jack. She recruited and engaged Chef Don in the Cooking Matters program. Together they facilitated 15 Cooking Matters classes and she continually keeps a waiting list for people signed up for Cooking Matters. Effie will also attend the conference.

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Barry County Ag Awareness Day educates youth

The sixth annual Ag Awareness Day took place May 12 at the Barry County Fairgrounds. The event involved 577 third-grade students from five area schools and 115 teachers and chaperones along with 100 presenters and helpers.

 The program, which lines up with the Michigan Curriculum Framework standards and benchmarks, provides agricultural awareness and informs students of food and product origin. Twenty-three classes educated youth on various aspects of agriculture from animal nutrition to soil conservation to beekeeping. Presenters included 4-H members as well as professionals who taught about the subject in which they work.

 Youth attendees also enjoyed getting up close to animals in a petting zoo and riding in a horse-drawn wagon.

 Michigan State University Extension 4-H, Hastings FFA, Hastings Schools and Barry County Farm Bureau organized the event. Thanks go to Kathy Walters Surratt, MSU Extension 4-H youth educator in Barry County, who provided leadership for this program.

 Wal-Mart, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Ponderosa Steak House in Hastings, and Karen and Larry Ferris funded the event.

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Eating Smart From the Start Program educates child care providers in nutrition

Any parent knows how hard it can be to get kids to eat nutritious food. Child care providers struggle with the problem as well.

 Michigan State University Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Saginaw and Genesee counties partnered with Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline) to offer the Eating Smart From the Start program designed by Cooking Matters. The program empowers child care providers to serve nutritious – and delicious – meals and teach healthy eating habits to the children in their care. This five-session course engaged 15 child care providers caring for children living in low-income situations in a series of participatory cooking lessons. In November 2010, the program received a grant from Cooking Matters, sponsored nationally by Wal-Mart and the ConAgra Foods Foundation, to implement a series in the winter and spring.

 Dawn Earnesty, Extension educator District 9, oversees the program and grant. Monica Borsenik, MSU Saginaw County Extension program instructor, and Chrystal Harris, MSU Genesee County Extension program assistant, provided nutrition instruction. A culinary professional, Brandon Odum, who is a culinary arts major at Mott Community College, provided instruction for the cooking aspect of the class. Topics included healthy snack ideas for children, healthy recipes, menu planning, budgeting and strategies to promote positive attitudes about food among children.

 Participants took part in hands-on cooking lessons with direction from Mr. Odum. Grant money provided groceries for child care providers to take home and prepare meals with the children they care for. It also provided for a group meal and snack at the educational session.

 Throughout the class, participants discovered new ideas about nutrition and healthy recipes to implement into their child care businesses. The curriculum focused on engaging children into the cooking process, trying new foods and learning the importance of eating meals as a family.

 One child care provider, who had described issues she had with picky eaters, implemented the program’s “cucumber sammies” recipe for her children’s healthy snack one day. She couldn’t believe the positive response she received from the children. They were eating something green and healthy and liked it! Participant evaluations from the first session resulted in 100 percent of the group reporting they enjoyed the content and learned at least one new piece of information about nutrition.

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